Posts Tagged ‘soulforce’

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Pride in NYC

July 2, 2008

My soon-to-be husband and I spent the weekend in New York City to celebrate Pride and visit with some very dear Internet friends.  It was a simple trip from here: straight across Pennsylvania on the turnpike, pick up a train at the station in Trenton NJ, arrive at Penn Station and take the subway to the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  It was a 7 hour trip which, I figure, is not bad considering that Google Maps says it should have taken 6 hours if we had driven the entire way.  In a tip of the hat to the Village People, we stayed at the YMCA. 

While we waited for my friend Daniel to teach a voice lesson, Scott and I bought a bottle of wine and headed to Central Park.  We found a secluded spot where we were spied on by a squirrel.  We decided to keep looking around and headed for Strawberry Fields.  Scott took us off the path and we sat on a rock, finished the wine and watch people on the pathway.  By the time we met up with Daniel, we were both feeling pretty good, and needed some food to help absorb the alcohol. 

That evening we had dinner at the Metropolitan Museum and then strolled the many galleries before walking through Central Park to return to Daniel and Jonathan’s apartment for conversation and a little more wine. 

Saturday started with breakfast at the farmer’s market in Lincoln Plaza, and as the subway station was right underneath us, we decided to head to Times Square.  We walked around downtown Manhattan, did a few tourist things, like Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and even did some shopping in stores that we just don’t have at home.  Eventually we made it to Grand Central Station where we hopped a subway uptown to the east side and hung out at the Guggenheim Museum.  We took a brief detour to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum to look in the museum shop, then we headed back into Central Park. 

Saturday evening was reserved for dinner with our Soulforce friends at Daniel and Jonathan’s apartment.  The food was great, the conversation was lively, and Daniel and I performed a number for our friends. 

Sunday morning found us back at the apartment for breakfast before heading downtown for the Pride Parade.  This was our first time for Pride in NYC.  We found a good spot in front of the library.  We were shaded by a large tree and had a good view of the parade.  Jenna’s enthusiasm at the parade was contagious.  At times, she would cheer for something she saw and I’d laugh because I’d never think of cheering for such a thing, but why not?  For instance, she loved this marcher’s sign:

 Just a little over 2 hours after the parade started, it down-poured.  We got soaked and eventually went to the portico of the library.  We took our shirts off, wrung them out and tried to stay dry.  In time, the sun came out again and we continued watching the procession until the very end, a total of 4 hours. 

We all returned to the apartment, changed into dry clothes and then it was time to say good-bye.  Andy and Jenna needed to head back to Schenectady, Scott and I needed to begin our journey to PA.  It was tough to leave our friends behind.  Of course, we’ll all be together again in a few weeks at our wedding

It’s not always dangerous to meet up with people you know from the Internet.  As a matter of fact, it can enrich your life!

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Bible Predicts Gays and Lesbians Will Take Over the Church

June 11, 2008

“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  That is the big fear of many fundamentalist christians, isn’t it?  This scripture verse from Matthew 18:18 teaches them that whatever they permit to happen here on earth, God will permit to happen in heaven.  All I can say is “Praise God!”  I was afraid there’d be no internet, no Starbucks, and no cell phones in heaven. 

 

But Donny wasn’t talking about those things; he was talking about the biggest threat the church faces today: gay people.  Donny came to Soulforce, where I am a moderator, and joined in the discussions on our forums in a polite enough manner.  He made it clear that he thinks homosexuality is a sin.  We heard the same platitudes that we hear from others who wish to rationalize their hatred:  “hate the sin, love the sinner” and “I am a sinner too.”  I always brace myself when I hear certain phrases coming out of christians‘ mouths.  “Now don’t be offended, I’m just speaking the truth in love”  is usually the preface for a big insult or condemnation.  Donny’s “hate the sin, love the sinner” entrance line was the prelude to 37 public posts and a number of private messages to me, that can best be described as crazy-making. 

 

 I sat down with some of those posts and private messages that I had printed up and tried to make some sense of them, find a recurring theme, anything that gave me a clearer idea of what Donny was saying and why.  I found that Donny, and others like him, have a lot of fear going on in their heads.  The fear causes them to engage in inappropriate behaviors to justify their behaviors and rationalize their poor treatment of people who differ from themselves. 

 

One of the big fears appears to be change.  Donny often referred to the neologism being promoted by Soulforce.  I had to look it up.  Neologism often refers to newly coined words or phrases, but can mean new doctrine or new interpretation of sacred writings.  With this neologism that Soulforce is promoting, Donny sensed an attack.  He believes that Soulforce and other gay organizations are attempting to force the church to change the faith that was “delivered only once to the saints.” 

 

Gay christians, their organizations including Soulforce, do believe that recent theological study reveals a neologism:  Homosexuality as we understand it today based on scientific, medical, psychological, biological research, is not condemned by the Bible.  New interpretations of doctrine do not immediately indicate heresy, as many fundamentalists would have us think.  Consider that at some point doctrines concerning abolition of slavery, the sinfulness of racism, equality for women, and approval of divorce were all neologisms.  In our history, christians have supported slavery, racism, subjugation of women, prohibition of divorce by quoting the Bible and proclaiming all of these things to be God’s will.  In short, we like to think God is on our side so we use the Bible to support our prejudices. 

 

An early private message from Donny, in response to my request for him to adhere to our guidelines, revealed that he wanted to use proof-texting to denounce our stand about homosexuality.  Proof-texting involves using a verse or two as stand alone proof that the Bible supports or doesn’t support an issue.  It is always taken out of context, and therefor may or may not be referring to the issue being debated.  Later, when I bring up the issue of proof-texting on the public board, Donny claims that context is everything!  The contradictions began flowing after that.

 

Another tactic that is often used by the religious right is the “slippery slope” argument.  Slippery slope is a logical fallacy.  It is not a valid technique for proving a point.  Slippery slope says if A happens then B, or C, or D will happen, very often skipping over any of those intermediate steps, the debater will simply jump from A to D.  Donny’s favorite slippery slope was stating that if gays are allowed to marry, people will marry their pets.  Proof of this, for Donny, came in a claim that animal brothels exist in Europe.  He even defended his use of the slippery slope argument, apologized for comparing homosexuality to bestiality, then stated that ‘slippery slope’ is still a reality, which reasserted his original insult. 

 

Other logical fallacies committed by Donny in this exchange included ad ignorantiam, spotlight fallacy, begging the question, and burden of proof.  Donny claimed that because the Bible does not speak of loving homosexual relationships, nor does it mention same-sex marriage, that it must then condemn all such things.  That is ad ignorantiam.  A good example is the fact that the Bible also does not mention cats.  Following Donny’s logic, it is important to rid the world of all cats.  Donny offers up Pride parades and the outrageous behavior displayed at such events, generalizing that all gays and lesbians must behave this way (Spotlight fallacy.) 

When Donny appeals to scripture, his reasoning is somewhat circular, thus begging the question.  He even offered several purposes for the existence of the New Testament:  to define the Christian life and to defend against false teachings about it that entered into the Gospel and Apostolic community of believers; to combat false teachings creeping into the Church; in fact ALL of the New Testament was written to explain the way the believers in Christ should behave;  the New Testament was literally written to define what is and what isn’t Christian culture and community.  There is a sense of circular arguing in which we ask why we should base our societal standards on a first century writing and the answer seems to be because the Bible says we should. 

 

In all of this discussion, Donny made accusatory statements and wild exaggerations and failed to offer proof for any of them, thus committing the “burden of proof” fallacy. 

  •  I’ll take this experience as great enlightenment and validation about the Gay Agenda and its relentless attack on the Church and its people.
  • There have already been Churches burned to the ground for their “holding fast to that which is true.”
  • Anything goes is a reality for many people in the sexual abandon realm.
  • A billion-plus[sic] Christians have problems with supporting homosexuality and all that comes with it.
  • Christians are being outlawed and hated for their Biblically[sic] accurate stand in opposition to approving homosexuality. It is the Christians being threatened.

 

 As I write this entry, I’m overwhelmed with the amount of rhetoric that Donny was able to spew forth on our Soulforce forums.  The accusations, the innuendo, the contradictions, the projection, and the hysteria is appalling.  Donny doesn’t believe christians should accept as valid principles that all the major medical, scientific and psychological organizations that proclaim homosexual orientation as normal as heterosexual orientation, and that orientation is unchangeable.  He believes that gay and lesbian people wish to destroy the christian church.  He even believes that the Bible predicts gays and lesbians will overrun the churches.  Donny does not believe that gays and lesbians can be christians. He has implied that all homosexuals are promiscuous.  He claims that he does not care what secularists do, and even states “I do not care about legalized gay marriage as it is not a Christian concept and does not concern the Church at all, except for things to avoid doing”  but later says “Marriage is a man and a woman. And in Christian truth, that is immutable. It is through gay activism of gay rights that you find this gay cause of gay marriage. Marriage shouldn’t be redefined as same-gender. Call it something else but “marriage” is not available.”  His arguments against gay and lesbian people included discussions of anti-discrimination laws, and hate crime bills. All of which seems to boil down to one thing:  fear, which is where we started this entry.

 

Well, I have a fear.  I am afraid that Donny’s most hateful opinions are exactly what religious right leaders are thinking but won’t say publicly. I am afraid that their projection of violence won’t be seen by our society.  Remember that religious leaders blamed 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina on LGBT people.  Donny claimed that LGBT people are burning christian churches to the ground, but the only news stories I found about burned out churches were attributed to racism and bigotry. Many churches have experienced vandalism caused by their support of LGBT people and issues.  I fear that Pastors will continue to speak lies about homosexuals, granting their congregants tacit approval to commit physical violence against gays and lesbians. 

 

Most of all, I fear calling myself a Christian.  That title is now so corrupt that I can not use it to describe my relationship with God.  And I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I belong to the same club as Donny. 

 

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A Mission and Moral Obligation

February 23, 2008

As a gay man who is relatively new to being out of the closet, it’s been just over four years, I have quickly become an activist for fair and equal treatment of gay and lesbian people.  Much of the work I have done has been online in discussion forums, and face to face with friends and acquaintances who are struggling with their prejudices as they realize they can no longer apply those to gay people, especially when their friend comes out of the closet. I have protested at the state capitol, attended the church trial of a minister accused of marrying two women, and marched in protest outside of a rally in which James Dobson was the main speaker. Much of what I’ve learned comes from Soulforce, where I am a moderator of discussion forums, and it’s founder, Rev. Mel White.  Soulforce believes in achieving freedom from religious oppression through nonviolent resistance, in the tradtions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.   

 Recently, I found myself in a situation that has caused me to employ the principles of nonviolent resistance.  As I was exploring those principles, looking for clues as to the best course of action, I began to reflect about the roles of the Oppressor and the Oppressed.  I saw myself in the role of the oppressed, and I was resenting the fact that it fell upon me to aid my oppressor.  That aid was not meant to assist in my continued oppression, but rather to educate the oppressor and move them from that role.  It felt so unfair.  I did all the work to come out of the closet, live life honestly as a gay man, overcome the fears of being rejected by friends and family, erase the memories of bullying I experienced as a teenager, and now I was being called on to help my tormentors.  Surely, they could do the work themselves.  Google is available to everyone, isn’t it?  But what I discovered as I started doing the research for my own nonviolent resistance, as well as for writing about my experience, is that Oppressors are often blind to their power and privilege.  The oppressor has the power to define their social situation which leaves them morally pretentious and ethically obtuse.  (see John C. Raines, Righteous Resistance and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

The Situation

I am a music director for a small, upper middle class church.  I have been the music director for many years.  These good people knew me as a married man with children, although they had their suspicions about my orientation, and handled my separation and divorce pretty well.  They even took the news of my outting with only minor struggles.  The congregation was able to accept the concept of a gay man not only in their midst, but in a visible position at worship on Sunday mornings.  This peaceful existance has lasted these past four years.  But now I’ve pushed past the conceptual homosexuality and have introduced them to the reality of my life.  My partner has begun attending church with me. 

One would think that this wouldn’t be a huge problem.  Of all the ways people tend to view being gay, church attendance would most likely be a check in the positive column for a couple of gay guys.  Think being gay is a sin?  then it’s a good thing those sinners are attending church.  Think being gay is neutral? attending church is harmless, and may be a positive force in their lives.  Think being gay is a natural occurence, perhaps even planned as part of God’s creation?  then gay folks should honor their Creator by attending worship.   I just can’t think of any reason that Gay and Lesbian people of faith should not attend church, either separately or as a couple. 

Yet, word has gotten back to me that a few people are so upset by our attendance at worship that it became the topic of discussion at an Elder’s meeting.  My own dear Pastor has given me a “heads up” on this, and we had a meeting to discuss what we might do.  This is where my sense of justice/injustice has kicked in.  This is the circumstance that has me wrestling with the idea of the oppressed aiding the oppressor. 

The Education

Oppression causes harm to the oppressed and the oppressor.  Oppressors lose when they cause harm.  In this situation, should those who resent a gay couple attending church persist, the church will lose a voice from the choir, and most likely, lose their faithful music director. There are more ramifications to this for the congregation, but for now let’s leave it at two people, making positive contributions, being driven away from the fellowship.

The oppressed have many obstacles to overcome as they fight for justice.  Being in a position of powerlessness brings with it a lack of clarity about the condition of the oppressed. The oppressed may believe what the oppressor has said about them.  The gay community recognizes this as internalized homophobia.  If the oppressed succomb to the temptation to exact revenge, they merely usurp the power of the oppressor and become like them, creating more injustice.  The lack of clarity about the unjust situation can cause loneliness and isolation.  The oppressed do not want to see the lives of others like themselves, the wounds are a much too explicit reminder of their own pain. Oppression causes a mute suffering, leaving the oppressed unable to name what it is that oppresses them, unable to declare the reality of their condition, and unable to protest the indignities that are foist upon them. 

Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that the oppressed have a moral obligation to the oppressor.  It is impossible to meet that obligation without having a clear and objective understanding of the injustice of the situation.  This focus enables the oppressed to name the plight, proclaim the immorality of it, and oppose it.  When this is done, the oppressed are able to unite and stand against their oppressors in nonviolent resistance.  Martin Luther King Jr. showed that having clarity about the oppression is enough to unite the community.  It allows an oppressed group to stand in their own dignity and protest the injury of injustice.  The oppressed become moral agents and then have an obligation to the oppressors to teach them that their ways are immoral.  The goal becomes of greater moral importance then:  reconciliation. 

The Plan

I am still in the stages of examining my emotions about the situation at church, my hurt that my relationship could be the topic of discussion at an Elder’s meeting, the pain at knowing good people are engaged in gossip, yet have never approached me with their concerns when the Bible clearly teaches us to go to each other in love.  I can not say at this point, that I have been successful, because the journey is just beginning.  However, I am making a plan, and I believe, because of the things I’ve learned, that I will be successful, and that success will be demonstrated in reconciliation, not in conquering anyone. 

Communication is key.  I have taken steps to open the lines of communication with at least one person that I know is “struggling” with seeing me with my partner at church.  In her discussion of that struggle with the Elders, she imposes a situation of oppression on my partner and I as a couple, and as we’ve seen above, the entire congregation suffers.  I’ve provided her with information that demonstrates what we all know:  the Bible is not a text book for science or psychology; the few scripture verses that address homosexual activity are for a certain time and place and do not address homosexual orientation as we know it; homosexuality is recognized by all the professional medical and psychological organizations as being an affectional orientation that carries no moral stigma and is not considered a mental health disorder.  To cling to such beliefs is in effect just using the scriptures to justify one’s own prejudices and bigotry.  Along with that packet of information I have issued and invitation to meet, perhaps with our Pastor as a mediator, and discuss her fears, my anger, and come to some reconciliation. 

That is just one person.  There will be others.  For them, perhaps a different plan will be needed.  Each person that I speak to may require a slightly different method.  For one, appealing to the emotions may work, for another, a more academic approach will be beneficial.  At all times, the goal is claiming that moral ground, in nonviolent resistance in the tradition of Gandhi and MLK Jr. and looking for the opportunity for reconciliation, for agreement.  I am convinced that these men have taught us that nonviolent resistance offers us the best chance for success.  Our adversaries are not evil, only misinformed.  Once they have assimilated this new information, they will understand our plight and become supporters instead of adversaries.  Should they choose to remain in their ignorance, it will become clear to others that they have chosen to remain oppressors.  Justice does indeed prevail.

What direction will this journey take?  That remains to be seen.  I do not know if I will be there to see the fruits of my actions.  I may be like those ministers in I Corinthians 3, as one plants the seed, another waters it, and God provides the growth.  I hope that I can revisit this subject in the near future and report some success.  For now, I can only speak of my plans and my hopes for this journey.